Opening Day in the MWC
Now I can breathe again. Pitchers and catchers in Arizona? Check. College baseball begins tonight? Check. Is there anything else. Yeah, Bozar, you're back from two weeks in Africa (outstanding trip I might add) so get to work on those articles. Alrighty, then, here we go.
Nevada vs Northwestern
Four games in Mesa, Arizona as I can't imagine playing in either Reno or Chicago this time of year. Mesa, on the other hand, should be perfect. We all know that the Wolf Pack was the regular season champs in 2015 but got nuttin' to show for it. Sheer robbery. Nevada should be good this year but not as much as last year. They also have a new head coach. Northwestern was 18-36 last year and next to last in the Big 10 which actually has 13 teams playing baseball. They are projected by most to be about the same this season. It will be interesting to see how well the Wolf Pack does. I expect them to take three of four if not all as the pitching should be fine for the Pack and the MWC in general.
Creighton at Fresno State
The Blue Jays had a decent year at 32-19 last season and are picked to be second in the Big East this season. That means they could be pretty good. Fresno should be up to the task in Fresno but Omaha in February means most, if not all practice, is inside. That puts all snow belt teams in a bad position at the beginning of the year. I've talked about this ad nauseum so I'll stop now. The Bulldogs had an outstanding beginning to the season last year and I expect they will do the same this year.
Air Force at the Davidson Tournament in Davidson, NC
The Falcons will be playing Buffalo, Marist, and Davidson. I know, these are relative unknowns when it comes to college baseball. Buffalo was pretty bad last year at 16-35 and projected to be last in the East Division of the Mid-America Conference. The MAC usually produces a good team or two a year (think Kent State) so don't discount this team too much. This conference can surprise so maybe this team can also but don't count on it. Marist was also under .500 last year at 19-27 and are a middle of the pack team in the MAAC. Not the same as the MAC as this is the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Not a baseball powerhouse. Davidson is a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference and all the teams I've covered so far have one thing in common outside of the Big 10; they are all members of one bid conferences. Again, don't get me started. Air Force will probably win two of three as the pitching will work and their hitters are decent. Air Force could be good this year.
UC Irvine at San Jose State
The rest of the MWC should be watching the result of this weekend series as it could show if the Spartans are to make any noise this year. Pitcher Joe Balfour is a juco transfer that I thought would make an impact on the starting rotation. He has, but not the way I had figured; he's injured and on the shelf until further notice. Crap! Hopefully minor. What about UC Irvine? The Anteaters are always pretty good and were 33-23 last season and are projected to be a third place team in the very good Big West (second in another poll). The Spartans put together a very challenging schedule for 2016 and if they do well in the OOC portion of the schedule the conference could be very competitive indeed. The Spartans need to improve in every facet of the game and they have some good young players but it will be tough really improving on last year's last place finish in the MWC. For the conference's sake, and the Spartans, I hope they start this weekend.
UNLV at Texas
If you happen to get the Longhorn Network, you can watch this series. I'm sorry, but it rubs me the wrong way when a team, one school, has their own tv network. No wonder the players want to get paid. Anyway, let's talk baseball here. The Rebels had a poor season last year and are in a year of transition with a new coach. The Longhorns were 30-27 last year which was a bummer by their standards. They still received a bid. Again, I don't want to go there. Texas is expected to rebound in the Big 12 and I agree. That being said, the Rebels have at least two pitchers that should hold their own in this series. Then again, it's a road series in a hostile environment in front of four to five thousand fans. The Rebels will have problems.
New Mexico at Hawaii
I miss Hawaii. This business with many of their teams playing in different conferences bugs me. I understand the role geography plays but, still. I would like to see them as part of the MWC but I doubt that will ever happen. They are a member of the Big West and have taken their lumps in the past as a member of that conference. The Rainbows were 21-32 last season and don't look to be a whole lot better this year. New Mexico has had the hitters in the past and this season looks to be no different. For the Lobos it all boils down to how goes the pitching. If they ever get a really strong rotation to add to the one or two guys they have, they could be really good. Again, they can score. Hawaii can be a trap for a team not used to playing them on the road so the Lobos need to stay focused. Hawaii has a great fan base and they have been making noise the last few seasons as the team has underperformed. Four games should be split.
Oregon at San Diego State
The Ducks try to dry out by visiting San Diego. This should be a great series as the Aztecs are coming off a season in which they were the sole bid for the MWC and Oregon is always tough. The Ducks were 38-25 last season, ranked in the top 20 this season, and were in a regional so this is a matchup of two tournament-tested teams. Yeah, should be good.
The series that looks like one to watch is Oregon at SDSU. Two tournament teams is always fun to watch so I suggest you go. UNLV at Texas could be a good one but I believe the Rebels are in a bit over their heads on the road. I also like SJSU playing host to Irvine just to see if there is any hope of improvement for the Spartans this season. The conference needs them to improve.